M9, M(240), DXO… and smoke and mirrors.

Inspiration, Q&A, Teaching point

Leica M(240) CMOSIS sensor


Just over a week ago, I posted my “Final Verdict” on the new Leica M (aka Leica M240).

The post itself was rather benign, but many people were not happy with my conclusion (or my title).   And there has been at least one thread that I know of, started on a major Leica forum, attacking me for my view (I even had a moderator from that forum try and post a provoking comment on this very site.  I didn’t bite.).

One of the main criticisms against me is that I haven’t photographed with the new M, so I am not in a position to comment on its image quality.


The fact that I haven’t photographed with the new M precludes me from commenting on handling/ergonomics, but it does not prevent me from judging image quality.  I do that with 100% of the cameras I don’t buy… that’s called common sense.

Having stated the above, I have viewed and extensively handled RAW (DNG) files from the new M(240), and I do believe that the files have more “depth”, slightly more dynamic range, and render better at high(er) ISO levels.  But I still prefer the files out of my M9 (and the M8 before that) at base ISO.

It may be difficult to understand, but that’s my belief.

You know, it’s funny…DXO recently concluded that the M9 has the worst FF sensor they’ve ever tested.  This was previously known, at least to those who track such metrics.  The Leica faithful have historically derided such conclusions, stating that there’s something special in the M8/M9 files that is just not being captured by DXO’s methodology, and the proof was in the images.  Well, many of those same individuals are now criticizing me for using my own eyes to pass judgment on the new M(240).

You have to ask yourself:  What’s my motive?

Am I a Leica “hater”?  No, of course not… I only shoot with Leica cameras.

Am I trying to sell you something?  No, there are no sponsor links on this site.  I never “hype up” the latest and greatest and call it the “BEST camera EVER!!!” until the next one comes along.

Am I trying to be negative?  No, life’s too short for that.

The answer:  I’m stating my opinion.

That’s all. 

The irony is that one day I may pick up the new M, because it will be the best solution for somebody who appreciates a high(er) ISO colour-capable camera with rangefinder coupling in an M form factor.  It’s currently the only game in town for that combination of features.

And as I’ve written countless times, none of this silliness has anything to do with creating great images.

So people, relax.  It’s just a camera.


32 thoughts on “M9, M(240), DXO… and smoke and mirrors.

  1. Hello Peter,
    I support your view. I am new to M and I am a recent Leica fan, too. As a consumer, I decided to buy another M9-P instead of waiting for the new M in this January. I like the color & image reproduction of M9 and I love the CCD images. For the new M, it is good too, but let me go through the M9 experience first. I also agree with you that sooner or later, I will also go with the M240 as it will be the coming trend. A big part of photographic art is in the individual! You & your guests are great examples!!
    Michael Sin.

    1. Thank you Michael. Have fun exploring your M9(P) x 2… and yes, take your time and learn. The M240 will be still be there later, waiting for you.

  2. C’mon Peter – didn’t you know that if you haven’t used a camera you’re not allowed to give your opinion about it, but if you haven’t used a camera you are allowed to defend it?

  3. Peter,

    I honestly laugh each time I hear someone comment negatively about somebody else’s views on camera equipment and quality. There are just too many variables to give us a true measurement.

    The one variable is the person viewing the picture. How can you control this? How can you control the feelings and emotions the viewer gets from the picture? Isn’t this, what is most important?

    We should all be allowed to have our opinions and others don’t need to get all stressed out about it. Like you said, life is too short.


  4. Hi Peter,
    Steve Huff has posted his review and the images look pretty good, starting to see the Leica look, would be interesting to see some of them with your processing workflow as they may well look very similar to lot of your imagery. Maybe the jury is still out, re CCD vs CMOS?

  5. Bravo, Peter. Your opinions always get my attention for their professionalism. But more importantly, because of their honesty and genuineness. It’s not about whether I agree or not, although I think you make some excellent points about the M 240 vs. the M9.

  6. Dear Peter, Even if I will enter in the M’s digital bodies for the first time with this 240…..of course….you have right to comment about this gear even if still you could not try it as real shooter…and never loose your great common sense…..its needed in this world….congratulations for your effort to maintain this site….

  7. Opinions on the Internet are only worth what we pay for them. Actual user experience counts a lot more to me and that user’s work with the tool being talked about. My move to a digital Leica have been influenced by Peter here and others on the net. Even more important to me is the enjoyable relationship I have with my Leica. I just love the feel in hand and its simplicity. The camera stays out of the way.

    1. “The camera stays out of the way”… I wonder how true that will be with each successive model. Hopefully they won’t forget that. Thank you Duane, as always, for your thoughtful contributions.

  8. Well Steve Huffs review is just what I wanted…..I think he will stoke the CMOS fire so I can get a reduced price M9! They are starting to come onto the Australian eBay now….1 last week, 8 this week and …… they don’t arrive into Australia until next month!

    But the thing I looking forward to the most is tomorrows “Life’s Little Moments”.

    1. Ahhh Andrew, you smooth-talker, you. Just the sort of thing I needed to read to chase my grumpiness away. Tomorrow will bring another Life’s Little Moment – you can depend on it!

  9. Peter,

    I don’t often comment, but I do read each and every post and comment. What a wild and wonderful set of posts and comments this past week – it has really been powerful and meaningful to me this week. I hope you keep it up.

    All the best,


  10. I think I will start a new website dedicated to unabashed discussion about anything that is the best. I’m thinking http://www.MuchAdoAboutNothing.com has a nice ring to it. We’ll start off with cameras and paint brushes and then get into cars and cappuccino machines. 🙂

    I’ll stick my neck out with you and say I prefer CCD sensor images also….like the ones in the scanner digitizing my film (from my M7’s – shameful plug) 🙂

    Stay calm and carry on.

    All the best.

  11. Leaving aside for a moment your thoughts on civility of discourse (which I share), what surprises me is that we have such a great kerfuffle about CCD sensors acting like CCD sensors and CMOS sensors acting like CMOS sensors. Of course they are different, and of course many people prefer one to the other. When you first foreshadowed this issue (well ahead of the curve), anybody who had used both CCD and CMOS equipment would simply have nodded to themselves in agreement. Like you, I prefer the CCD look, but really, folks, t’ain’t no big thang. BTW, I get a big kick out of your blog, I’m glad its around. Mike (Vancouver)

  12. The question that comes to mind for me is this: Is “The Leica Look” that is talked about visible in the same way with Leica’s film Ms? Does it change when we change film types?

    If it does, then perhaps this Leica Look is not so much something of Leica as it is an abstraction that Leica owners have in their heads. If it doesn’t, then it has to be coming from the lenses and the way they image.

    So … Now, in digital terms, we’ve changed film again. The new film has a different characteristic from the older film (never mind that that older film was different from the film before it too). Does The Leica Look persist? You like Agfa, I like Ilford … etc. 😉

    My opinion is that the look is more a matter of how the lenses render plus the image processing applied by the camera and/or the user, and the influence of CMOS vs CCD is small. That’s what I’ve maintained from the beginning of this debate. I’ve been confident that the new M would produce the Look, and, based on the photos I’ve seen so far by photographers whose Leica work I’m familiar with, it does. The Look I see comes from the M-bayonet lenses, not from the film.

    What the new camera provides that I’m most enthused about is far greater responsiveness and polish in operation than the M9. It captures what the lenses do very well. I look forward to when I can obtain one as that responsiveness, coupled with the new dynamic range and sensitivity, is what will make the difference for me.

    1. Thank you Godrey, for you well-expressed and measured response. I’m not sure whether we disagree much on this issue, based on what you’ve written above.

  13. I bought a digital EOS back in 2005 and was initially pretty disappointed in the output. I had to try different post processing algorithms in different programs but after I got the hang of it I was really surprised at how good the images looked.

    I think we’re seeing the same thing with the new Leica. Once people really get the hang of how to handle these files there should be some really good photos from the M in the next few months.

  14. I find it interesting that the Leica community touted how superior the images are from a CCD sensor compared to the CMOS. Then Leica jumps ship. Now everyone is trying to compare how close the CMOS images are to the CCD images; and, how Leica has better captured this phenomenon compared to other companies utilizing the CMOS. It would seem, this argument leads to the conclusion: CCD images are the standard to which CMOS aspires. I understand what is gained by CMOS, but when there is sufficient light, CCD seems clearly the better image. Or, Leica and all of those touting the company line mislead everyone with the M8 & M9 rhetoric. The truth is the CCD, unlike the CMOS, is doing exactly what it was solely designed to do – image.

    The only real appeal for me with the M240 is the weather sealing and what sounds like is better ergonomics. I just wish they had forgone the mainstream push and continued on the original path. I certainly would like another stop into lower light with the CCD, but I grew up shooting film. The images of the M8 and M9 just don’t look bad to me at higher ISO. Do I like them as much as I like the lower ISO image quality – no. But, it has always been composition that is most important to me. So, I accept the compromise that comes with the CCD sensor. I guess it is having the ability to capture a better image under more ideal lighting is more appealing than the other side of the coin for me. This is all very personal and it can easily be argued that the other advantages are more important for someone else.

  15. Hi Peter, I just found your blog by accident. And I couldn’t agree with you more. Do you know how I found this blog?? It was because I thought I was crazy for obbsessing over M9 vs M vs M10 colour rendition and been digging the internet for reviews after reviews, samples after samples and so on. Then I found you. Now I don’t feel like I am crazy anymore. Many have said I was. But now I am sure I am not. Trust me, as a former D700 owner who upgraded it to a D600 only to sold it back again for another D700 after using it for only 1 month, I too felt that itching feeling at the back of my mind thinking, “What is wrong with the colours?” Thank you.

    1. Hey Rio! Nice to have you on board. No, you are definitely not crazy. People doubted what I said years ago when the M240 was introduced and I declared it as inferior to the M9. But now, which camera is sought after the most? You and many others feel the same… I wish Leica had listened back then. I still have this irrational hope that some day we will get a new CCD sensor in an M body.

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